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Clinton signs Omnibus Parks Bill

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  November 15, 1996
                            THE WHITE HOUSE
                     Office of the Press Secretary
    For Immediate Release	   	     	        November 12, 1996
                       STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT
         Today I have signed into law H.R. 4236, the "Omnibus Parks 
    and Public Lands Management Act of 1996," a comprehensive bill 
    addressing the management of the Nation's invaluable national 
    parks, forests, and other natural resources.
         I am pleased the Congress passed this legislation with 
    bipartisan support in both Houses and has removed numerous 
    provisions to which my Administration strongly objected.
         The Act will create or improve almost 120 national parks, 
    trails, rivers, or historical sites in 41 of our States.  As 
    President Teddy Roosevelt said:  "[t]he nation behaves well if 
    it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn 
    over to the next generation increased, not impaired, in value."  
    This Act will help ensure that we follow that advice and protect 
    for the next generation some of our most valuable natural and 
    historical resources.  
         One of the most important provisions that my Administration 
    supported would improve the management of the Presidio in 
    San Francisco.  This military post, dating from 1776, includes 
    both beautiful open spaces appropriate for National Park Service 
    management and hundreds of unused buildings requiring a more 
    innovative approach.  This Act establishes a government 
    corporation, known as the Presidio Trust, to refurbish and lease 
    these buildings quickly and efficiently, but in a manner 
    consistent with overall park management requirements.
         Another laudable provision authorizes appropriations 
    of $17.5 million to help the New York-New Jersey Palisades 
    Interstate Park Commission to acquire lands within the Sterling 
    Forest Reserve, just 40 miles from midtown Manhattan.  This is 
    one of the last areas of pristine forest in the Northeast and 
    the area is critical for supplying safe drinking water to 
    northern New Jersey.
         I am also pleased that the Act establishes the Tallgrass 
    Prairie National Preserve in Kansas.  The North American 
    Continent was once covered by over 400,000 square miles of 
    tallgrass prairie.  Today, less than 1 percent remains.  This 
    Act will help to restore 11,000 acres of tallgrass prairie, 
    an ecosystem of grass as tall as 9 feet, and includes trees, 
    flowers, birds and other wildlife.  This ecosystem is nationally 
    significant and the Preserve is a welcome addition to the 
    National Park System.
         My Administration supports many other provisions in this 
    omnibus legislation, including designation of 10 separate 
    nonfederal national heritage areas in Virginia, West Virginia, 
    Tennessee, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, South Carolina, 
    Iowa, Ohio, and New York.  Other provisions would help to 
    preserve the Nation's cultural heritage by authorizing 
    memorials, protecting historic areas, designating the Selma to 
    Montgomery National Historic Trail in Alabama, and authorizing 
    the establishment of a Martin Luther King, Jr., memorial in the 
    District of Columbia.
         This Act also includes scores of park boundary adjustments, 
    land exchanges, and provisions to assist agencies in protecting 
    national parks, forests, and public lands.
         At the same time, the bill deletes almost all of 
    the provisions of the earlier conference agreement that my 
    Administration had found objectionable.  These provisions 
    include those that would have adversely affected the Tongass 
    National Forest in Alaska, the Shenandoah National Park and 
    Richmond Battlefields National Park in Virginia, the Sequoia 
    National Park in California, and other national parks and 
    Federal lands.  Unfortunately, the Act still includes a 
    few objectionable provisions.  Among them is a provision 
    that changes the status of about 70 acres of fragile land 
    that was previously protected as part of the Coastal Barrier 
    Resources System.  Prior to my signing of the Act this land 
    could only be developed at private expense.  Now, this land will 
    be eligible for Federal development subsidies in the form of 
    infrastructure funding and flood insurance.  The taxpayer should 
    not bear the risk of development in these damage-prone areas, 
    and my Administration will strongly resist any similar 
    legislative efforts in the future.  In addition, several 
    provisions exempt specific land transactions from environmental 
    laws.  Where these provisions allow, my Administration will 
    work to complete the transactions in full compliance with our 
    environmental laws.
         I must also note that two sections of the Act require 
    careful construction and application to avoid violating the 
    Appointments Clause of the Constitution.  First, to avoid an 
    unconstitutional limitation on the President's power to appoint 
    officers, I will regard the limitations on my ability to make 
    appointments to the Board of Directors of the Presidio Trust as 
    advisory.  The second issue involves officers of the National 
    Park Service (NPS).  To avoid an unconstitutional congressional 
    removal of an officer, I will not construe the Act to require 
    that the current NPS Director be subjected to the new 
    appointment process established by the bill.  Further, 
    appointments to the NPS Deputy Director positions created by the 
    Act must be made in a manner consistent with the Appointments 
    Clause in order for them to exercise significant governmental 
         As I said on September 29th following House passage of this 
    legislation, this is not a perfect bill.  But overall, the Act 
    represents a significant step forward in the conservation and 
    management of our national parks and other Federal lands for 
    the benefit of this and future generations.
         I am pleased to sign H.R. 4236 into law.
         	    	      	   	     WILLIAM J. CLINTON
        November 12, 1996.
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